Holidaymakers made 199,429 domestic trips across Cambodia at the weekend, from March 5-6, with foreign residents accounting for 11,091 or 5.56 per cent, in a considerable pick-up following three consecutive weeks of declines, the Ministry of Tourism reported on March 7.

Minister Thong Khon noted in the report that last weekend’s figure marks a 20.83 per cent increase over the 165,046 recorded on February 26-27 – foreign residents accounting for 7,603 or 4.61 per cent – indicating positive momentum in the domestic tourism market.

With the transmission rate of the Omicron coronavirus variant trending down somewhat week-on-week, more travellers are setting out on trips to tourist attractions across the provinces, he said.

However, the number of sightseers leaving the capital is still far below pre-Omicron levels, the minister observed.

“If the spread of the Omicron virus continues to slow down, domestic tourism will return in earnest, most likely at least to pre-Omicron conditions – as it was during the end of January and the beginning of February,” Khon said.

Kep provincial Department of Tourism director Som Chenda told The Post on March 7 that after the government moved to allow the resumption of socio-economic activities and as the Covid-19 vaccination rate among Cambodians ticked up, the number of visits to the Kingdom’s travel hotspots had been relatively high and on a notable upswing.

Many domestic travellers are still visiting Kep – especially at the weekend – greatly influenced by its coastal location that is not unlike that of nearby Preah Sihanouk and Kampot, which together form a trio of provinces linked by tourism, according to Chenda.

“Domestic tourists are drawn to coastal areas, and Kep is also growing, which bodes well for tourism here,” he said.

Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA) president Chhay Sivlin told The Post on March 7 that loads of local sightseers are going out to a variety of tourist attractions every weekend or holiday, but that travel in larger groups has seen lots of declines due to a weaker-than-desired downtrend in Omicron metrics.

“Last season, people had been going out in groups a lot … through tour packages organised by travel agencies,” she said.

On the other hand, Sivlin said, family travel still has considerable momentum, with trips mostly made to beaches and hills.

However, Lam Ker Khim, owner of the Kampot Teuk Rolok Guesthouse located just west of the Kampot Teuk Rolok roundabout (or New Kampot Circle) in Kampot town, told The Post that tourism in Kampot province has been very quiet as of late.

Ker Khim said bookings and guests at the guesthouse were notably lower than in mid-January, a decline he squarely pinned on Omicron infection fears.